By Igor Stepczynski | Broadcast Reporter
Happy new year, everybody. If you are reading this, you have experienced civilization’s shift into a new year and a new decade.
Historically, you can trace New Year’s resolutions and parties as far back as the Babylonians, who were the first to record celebrations over 4,000 years ago. In circa 46 B.C., Julius Caesar marked Jan. 1 as the beginning of the year in honor of the two-faced god Janus who looks at the past with one face and the future with the other. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, started covenant renewal services during which people look back at past mistakes and reflect upon future improvement.
While this holiday has triumphed as a favorite in my family, a growing number of people choose to be passive about it or not observe it. On one hand, how can you blame them? Surely the span of civilization is much longer than 2,020 years, right? Does anything really change besides some clock, which humans constructed to align atmospheric observations and societal functioning? Can one manipulate their own vices and virtues with a promise once a year? British psychologist Richard Wisemen didn’t think so and followed 3,000 people with New Year’s resolutions for an entire year. He found that 88% didn’t meet their goals, even with 52% of subjects expressing high confidence in their plan.
Statistics like these serve as a sober analysis against emotionally intoxicated human traditions like New Year’s Eve. However, numbers can also defend the human urge to theatricize objectively insignificant occasions, such as the sun completing its annual rotation around the earth.
According to some calculations by author Ali Binazir, the odds of your present existence are next to none. He explains how the odds of your two parents meeting and staying together long enough to have you is 1 in 40 million. What about the right sperm and egg meeting to form you and all your ancestors? What about the odds that every single one of your ancestors lived to reproductive age? He concludes that the odds of “you existing” are 1 in 10 to the 2,685,000 power. What about all those close calls where one of your ancestors almost died? You wouldn’t be here.
Let’s not forget our ancestors’ survival through some terrible eras, in my case World War II Poland. There are documented instances of Nazis executing my family members in front of their relatives at their own home. What if that gun was pointed a few inches to the left at someone in my direct lineage? My grandmother was able to hide during a Gestapo killing spree because of a dog’s warning of intruders by the driveway. What if that dog was literally anywhere else at that moment? One great-grandfather documented years of imprisonment inside concentration camps. Why did he survive to come back home but millions of other didn’t? How was my entire lineage not cut off? I don’t know. Yet the unlikely outcomes of those moments in the early 1940s decided whether a Polish boy in Texas would live to tell the tale for his university’s newspaper today. Each of our lineages has unexplainable luck that led to our survival, whether we are aware of it or not.
Our world is a divided one: geographically, economically, politically, racially and religiously.
The fact that the entire globe can agree to rejoice together for one moment in time (respective to time zones) amid our noisy and individualistic world is magical. The fact that people born before the invention of the polio vaccine can now FaceTime their children across the globe through a piece of glass and metal at any time is indicative of powerful human innovation. The fact that our human race is still somehow existent on this mass of land traveling through an eternal oblivion with no direction and no concrete explanation is fascinating.
Think about all the changed calendar numbers people saw throughout human history; out of everything that has ever happened in this world, you are privileged to see the most recent one: 2020.
Now, we can play the game of debating whether our human civilization is the simple product of scientific matter through a construct of time or whether it’s due to the masterful creation of a God.
However, here’s something you cannot debate:
You are now reading a 2020 edition of The Baylor Lariat. This paper is 120 years old with some readers enjoying it for decades, but they aren’t here with us to read this one. If you’re not celebrating New Year’s day or at least going through the motions to do so, you are not paying tribute to the perseverance and uniqueness of your existence. You are taking for granted those before you who determined your survival into the newest edition of the global human experience. Most importantly, it indicates a lackluster internal dialogue and a grayscale interaction with relationships of all kind.
Will you make it to read the 2021 newspaper edition? Only time will tell. Witnessing yearly calendars increase by one integer is a privilege that can be taken away from any of us in the blink of an eye. We are a fragile species that needs sentiment and intimacy with time to thrive. It may be just another number or just another social construct, but you owe it gratitude and recognition as a member of today because, inevitably, a time will come when you won’t see the next. Time will always go on, but OUR time won’t. Please, smile along with us while we can.
New year, new me? No. New year, new we.